Matt Greene skates 'One More Shift' in Ralph Engelstad Arena
The former UND captain and two-time Stanley Cup winner skated before Saturday's UND-Minnesota Duluth game.
GRAND FORKS — Before Matt Greene took the ice Saturday night, a highlight video played in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
It featured just a sampling of the punishing hits he routinely delivered around college hockey rinks from 2002-05 and for 12 years in the NHL after that. Some of the hits even drew laughs from the 11,773 fans in attendance.
"I'm really honored to be here," Greene said. "It's a special place for me. Any time you get to represent the school and the team, it's a huge honor for me."
Greene, who spoke to the players before the game, kept his 'One More Shift' simple.
He skated one lap around the zone, holding his old wooden Koho stick — he was the last UND player to use a wood stick — before giving the current team fist bumps on the blue line.
"It's outstanding to see him," UND coach Brad Berry said. "He's always a loyal alum who comes by and checks in with a call, text or whatever. Tonight, his whole family was here, even his mom and dad from Grand Ledge, Mich.
"He came in and talked to our guys before he went out. He said a couple of points about North Dakota. He's a Michigan guy. He didn't know anything about North Dakota and how special it was here (until he arrived). I wish it would have transferred into a quicker start, but at the end of the day, he did have a really good message for our guys."
Greene, who went on to win two Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings, said his time at UND meant a lot.
"Everything," Greene said. "It was a chance to grow up, a chance to develop as a person and as a player. I was really lucky to have a great coaching staff here. They really teach you the value of hard work, culture and being a good teammate. You're really playing for something bigger than yourself. You're playing for the guys who were here before you and after you. It's nice to be a part of that culture and legacy."
Greene joined UND in the fall of 2002. As a sophomore, he helped the team win the MacNaughton Cup as Western Collegiate Hockey Association champions. As a junior, he captained UND to the NCAA Frozen Four.
"I was lucky we had a couple of really good teams," Greene said. "It was tough not being able to get it done, but we had a lot of fun along the way. Some of those guys had truly remarkable careers. Two guys played over 1,000 NHL games — (Travis) Zajac and (Zach) Parise. We had other guys with great careers, too."
Greene said he learned a lot from his college teammates.
His junior season, UND ran to the national championship game behind a punishing defensive core, which featured Greene, Andy Schneider, Matt Smaby, Matt Jones, Robbie Bina, Lee Marvin and Kyle Radke.
But it wasn't just those guys he learned from.
Greene also pulled knowledge from defending forwards in practice.
"You spend so much time playing against each other and you'll ask, 'Why did you do that?' They'd answer," Greene said. "Then, I could learn how to defend that. You get better by picking these guys' brains, talking hockey with no distractions. You're trying to get better every day. It was a special group we had all three years. We had guys who wanted to get better every single day and it makes you better."
Greene was a popular teammate at UND, known for his sense of humor in the locker room.
"Away from the rink, when you're hanging out, he's the best guy ever to be around," Schneider said. "There's a switch that can be flipped. He's not a very fun person to play against. He's going to make life miserable for you."
Greene finished his career with 347 penalty minutes, fourth-most all-time at UND. He sits only behind Jim Archibald, Marty Schriner and Mike Commodore in that category.
He wore the 'C' during Dave Hakstol's first year as coach in 2005-06 and went on to be a leader at the NHL level as well. He wore an 'A' for both of the Kings' Stanley Cup teams.
Greene now works in player development for the Kings.
"There are born leaders and guys that get it," Schneider said. "One thing he probably did as good as anybody was lead by example. He was a freak in the weight room, a gym rat. He loved being in there. Even if we had days off, he'd be going in there, riding the bike, going in the sauna, lifting. . . that stuff goes through the locker room. You can't fake that."